Posts Tagged ‘grooming’

How to Become a BFF: Your Bunny’s Best Friend

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

by SaveABunny volunteer Mai Salvado-Da Rocha

How to Become a BFF: Your Bunny’s Best Friend
For the single-bunny households

My husband and I adopted five bunnies from SaveABunny: two bonded pairs and one bachelor bunny. The two pairs – Nibbles & Laxmi, and Cameron & Peri – provide each other with lots of comforting grooming, sniffing, and snuggling, but Frankie, our bachelor bunny, doesn’t have a bunny mate to snuggle with, so I have done my best to be as good a best friend I can be, considering that I’m not a bunny.

I have worried that Frankie is lonely because he doesn’t have a bunny mate, but attempts to introduce him to other bunnies have failed. He is a paradox; when he’s around other bunnies, he’s aggressive, he makes a sweet growling noise (obviously meant to be very fierce) in his throat, and he comes out of his corner swingin’, no matter how gentle the other bunny is. However, when people come around, he runs out right into the center of the fray, honking with happiness and excitement. When I change my sheets or rearrange my furniture, he doesn’t hide in safety. No, Frankie comes out, sits on my clean sheets, hops under furniture that I can barely hold, makes figure 8s between my legs when I’m walking, and just generally makes his presence very, very known. Because he gets the growlies around other bunnies, yet acts like a puppy when people visit, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is a “people bunny,” not a “bunny’s bunny.”

Even if Frankie doesn’t want a bunny mate, I still want him to get all the benefits of being cute and furry, so I have compiled a list of the things I do with him to make him feel loved and assured that he’s not missing out on anything by being single.

Check ears and eyes at least once a day. When bunnies groom each other, they pay careful attention to the eyes and the ears because those parts of the body are extremely important.  Frankie, a survivor of the terrible Hayward abuse/hoarding case, has one damaged eye. He can see out of it, but it is lacking lashes, so things get into it, and it tears up often. So I pet his head and feel if there are any crusty deposits that have collected in the corners or if there are stray hairs on his eyeball. The crusty deposits are easily removed with your hand or a soft cloth, but when he gets a clump of fur on his eyeball, it’s very hard to remove. I gently manipulate his eyelids until the clump attaches itself to one of them and then remove it with my hand or soft cloth. Most bunnies don’t have this problem because their eyes have lashes, but it’s a good idea to check your bunny’s eyes just the same. And, when you look into his ears, make sure they’re clean and dry, with no fluid or dark flecks in them. If you couple these examinations with lots of petting on the head and face, your bunny won’t even notice you’re playing doctor. (Note: if you find something that seems as though it doesn’t belong, make sure that you contact your bunny doctor immediately.)
Frankie is at his most rambunctious in the mornings and evenings. So that is when I bring out the toys. Unfortunately, Frankie is too smart; he knows immediately which items to turn his nose up to, and which items to chew and bat with his paws. Every toy, wicker ball, sea-grass mat or apple stick we’ve given him has been completely ignored. Instead, he chews every cord he can, tears pages out of books, gnaws on homework (try that excuse with your professor!) and nibbles holes in pillows, sheets, blankets, clothing, and shoes. Note: This wouldn’t happen if we kept Frankie in an x-pen or otherwise contained, but he’s so good with his litter box that we let him have free run of the bedroom. We don’t care if he chews up the bedclothes or papers; we’ve just trained ourselves – or perhaps he has trained us – to accept that any object that he can reach is fair game. Except for the cords. He could hurt himself with those, so we keep those out of the way. He sure likes them, though, and when he’s eyeing one (I can always tell; he gets a naughty look in his eye), all I have to do is say, “Frankie!” and he’ll hop away guiltily. He knows that he’s being extra naughty if he’s contemplating the cords. So, if your bunny is active in the mornings and evenings, those are good times to have more active fun with him: give him paper to chew (phonebooks and newspapers are good) or play tug-of-war with him, tickle his tail, or give him an invigorating, all-over body massage. Experiment, see what he likes, and make sure that he has plenty of water and hay so that when you’re done playing, he can replenish himself.
Frankie, like our other bunnies, likes to nap for most of the day. If you are home at that time, you can slowly insinuate yourself into your bunny’s dreamtime. Our bonded bunnies like to sleep right next to each other, sometimes side by side, and sometimes face touching face. Getting cozy with your bunny when he’s sleeping will probably take you longer than it would if you were a bunny. So be patient. When it looks like he’s relaxed (when his back paws are kicked out behind him or he’s lying on his side or lying on all his paws with his eyes closed), get close to him and get into the rhythm of his sleep. Watch his breathing and pitch your breathing to his. Sit still for a while and calm yourself because no bunny wants to be abruptly woken by a restless human. When you’ve centered yourself and feel that you’re in communion with his sleep, try petting him very lightly – lightly enough so that you don’t wake him – on the head or back. Do that for a while, either until you get tired or until he gets restless. Try that a couple of times, making sure that he doesn’t mind it. If he does, he’ll let you know by moving away.

The next step is to sit with him and ground yourself while he’s sleeping, but this time, try laying your hand gently on his back or side or (as Frankie likes) on his forehead. Keep your hand there, still, for as long as you can. If you get tired, remove it and massage it to get the blood flowing again, and then repeat. The idea here is to get your bunny comfortable with another physical and emotional presence near him when he sleeps – comfortable enough to not run away and keep sleeping. This step might have to be repeated quite a few times, with your hand in different places, before he relaxes. If he did OK with the first step but shied away at the second, then go backward and do the first step over and over until you can try the second again.

Now this is the payoff. When your bunny feels secure enough to sleep with you sitting right next to him with your hand on him, try putting your face right down next to him, first maybe next to his side or back. We all know how tempting it is to bury our faces in their soft fur; if you approach him carefully, as is outlined here, not only will you get a greater chance to do that without him scrambling away, but he will benefit, too, because your presence will be a friendly, caring one, and who wouldn’t want to sleep with that next to him?
Chances are that you’ll have to lie down in order to be comfortable enough to put your face right next to your bunny. Make yourself as comfortable as possible when you’re doing this because constantly shifting will wake him up, and he’ll probably be grumpy without his juice and slippers. At first, try the side and back. Put your face just close enough to touch (and inhale, if possible, that good bunny smell). After doing that a few times, hopefully lying there long enough so that both of you enjoy the experience, try putting your face next to his face. Be careful here; if your bunny is a biter (like Frankie is), that could result in some interesting facial scars. Or, if you accidentally bump your bunny’s nose, he’ll probably be startled awake. So try to angle yourself so that you can touch his face with your face while you lie in a position that’s comfortable for you, too.
When you are finally able to do this, it’s guaranteed relaxation. You get to be very intimate with your bunny, close enough to inhale when he inhales, and feel his breath on your face when he exhales. You can feel his whiskers tickling your skin, and maybe his soft facial fur against your cheek. I’m lucky; Frankie has unusually furry cheeks (we call them his “muttonchops”) so I can easily feel his fuzzy face next to mine. Lying like this with your bunny will calm you, help you forget the trials of the day, and maybe even bring your blood pressure down. And it will give your bunny a sense of companionship, someone who loves him so much and whom he loves so much that he can sleep in his or her presence. If you can manage to do this once a day, depending on your respective schedules, it will be a good way to bond with him and make you both feel appreciated.

When we feed the bunnies their nightly greens, Nibbles and Laxmi dive right in to their bowl, heads first, as though we hadn’t fed them for days and as though they hadn’t been supplied with fresh hay all day. They just love those greens. And when they eat, one of them will often snatch a piece of parsley or cilantro right out of the other bunny’s mouth! But since they love each other so much and there’s no competition for resources, nothing happens; there’s no battle for treats. They just go on, placidly eating, until the food is gone. Now, I do not recommend snatching the food from your bunny’s mouth while he’s trying to eat, but there is one way that you can bond during dinner time. You can take the greens out of the bowl one by one and feed them to him. One of the cutest and most amusing sights in the world is watching, close-up, a bunny eat. He’ll mow down the length of the stem and then crush the leafy parts into his mouth, dripping water or bits of leaf if it’s all too big for him. I like to lie on the floor and feed Frankie and get a very close look at his mouth. His upper lip is divided like a lion’s so that he can squash more food at a time in his mouth, and his little front teeth show through his lip when his mouth moves. His lower jaw moves in a circular way, and he just downs that food faster than you can say, “Greedy bunny!” Feeding him allows him to associate your scent with a reward – his greens – and it affords you much entertainment. Make sure that you wait until he’s done eating before you go because, chances are, he will lick his little paws and give his face a thorough grooming, another adorable scene to watch.

There is no way that you can be exactly like a bunny mate, but in some cases, that’s good. Making your bunny happy is a matter of observing him closely, seeing what he likes and dislikes, experimenting slowly and gently with petting, massaging, toys, and games. As in every good relationship, there’s give and take, so the more time you spend with him, learning about him, the more fulfilling your relationship will be for the both of you. And if you REALLY want to try to be as bunny-like as possible, you can do what I did once and lick your bunny’s forehead. I don’t know if he enjoyed it or not, but it left me with a mouthful of fur and probably the beginnings of a decent-sized hairball.

A Day in the Life of Bunny Huggers

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

SaveABunny Volunteer Mai sent in this account of time spent with some of our special bunnies.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s because you’re a fellow bunny lover. You know the delights of binkies and happy honking and whisker tickles on your face. My husband Mark and I love them so much that we adopted five bunnies from SaveABunny. And if we had the room, we’d adopt five more. It’s a problem that many of us face: we want more bunnies but can’t accommodate them all at all times. I, for one, can never get my fill of bunniness. So, in order to indulge that lagomorphic urge, I groom bunnies with my husband at SaveABunny. Working there gives even the most voracious bunny lover more bunniness than she can ever contain.

Grooming is one of the many ways that people can volunteer at the sanctuary. It’s our favorite way because we get to pick up the bunnies and hug them while we clip their nails and check their ears and brush them over and over. Once they get used to the unfamiliarity of being on a table out of their pens, they usually love the attention. We could brush each one of them all day. But there’s never time for that – there are too many bunnies who need massaging and petting and are just waiting for their turn! Or maybe that’s just me projecting: I want to give every bunny his or her turn with the comb.

The variety of bunnies is one of the joys of grooming at SaveABunny. As we all know, each bunny has his or her own personality, so interacting with them one at a time allows us to meet them, get to know their likes and dislikes, feel the different energies that they emanate and, for the brief time that we’re with them, touch souls.

The last time I was there, I decided that I wanted to share the joy that is inherent in interacting with each bunny in the hopes that people might read this blog, read about each bunny, and think, “I think I’d really get along with that bunny. Maybe I should go meet him.” And this is the stuff of which long, happy companionship is made.

Poodalia

Our first bunny was Poodalia. She is a beautiful white angora bunny who suffered from neglect, Her fur was patchy, and we could see the delicate pink skin underneath. She was a wiggly one; we wrestled with her for a bit, but once we got her on my lap and started massaging her jaws, she settled right down. She had a big explosion of fur as a tail; it was giant in relation to the rest of her body…and it was just begging to be tickled. Because she was neglected, she is wary of humans and can be shy. She has to be approached gently, so for this reason, she would be a better companion for experienced bunny parents. It doesn’t take too long to earn her trust, though; even during the short time we were handling her, she got comfortable enough to grind her teeth and lick my hand. That’s all the thanks I need.

Sherwood

Sherwood was next. I had been looking forward to grooming him because he is a GIANT French lop. I wanted more than anything to pick him up and for once in my life have enough bunny to hold all at once. And I did! He was one huge, squirmy mass of bunny, and holding him was like holding a small dog. He struggled at first; after all, I was a complete stranger. However, it was easy to get him tranced out, and once we did, he was like fuzzy putty in our hands. Sherwood is one of the furrier bunnies, so we made sure to check his backside carefully. These long-haired bunnies can get their pellets or urine matted into their fur, so it’s important to check often to help them keep the area clean and healthy. Sherwood needed a little trimming and cleaning on his backside, and we thought he would resent the intrusion. I mean, every bunny has his right to privacy! But he didn’t struggle at all; in fact, I think he might have even enjoyed it. When we woke him out of his trance, he positioned himself like a ballerina and prepared to do a graceful grand jete right out of my arms, but I managed to hang onto him and get some extra hugs as a bonus. The interaction with him was boisterous, but he recovered from it quickly because, when we put him back in his pen, he settled right down and seemed to doze.

Scooter

Then came Scooter, one of Marcy’s Bunny Ambassadors and a little russet-colored tornado. He has one leg that was damaged in such a way that it sticks out now like a little bunny kickstand, but that does not slow him down one whit. He seemed to think that it was fun to make the big, clumsy human chase him around his pen, spill his water, land face first in his litterbox, and finally turn into a big pretzel. Scooter has street cred. He’s one of those adaptable little guys who can fit in anywhere and be adored by everyone. One might be inclined to pity him because of his leg, but you only have to see him interact with other bunnies to know that he’s far from the bottom of the hierarchy. He lives in a pen with three other bunnies, and he buzzed around each of them like a bee, getting a kiss here and a lick there. Scooter loved all of his bunny roommates, and they loved him back.

Grace

Grace is a special bunny both to me specifically and to everyone who interacts with her. She was the one who gave me my very first bunny kiss – and you never forget your first kiss. She is aptly named because she radiates grace and tranquillity, even though she is blind. Grace is like a little space heater of compassion. Marcy puts sick or new bunnies with Grace because she knows that Grace will be kind to them and show them the ropes. She can get nervous, especially when her toys and dishes are moved around because she does have to find her way around without seeing. With her, you can’t dither – you have to pick her up quickly and decisively and hug her closely – I use any excuse to hug bunnies! – so that she feels safe. Nervous or indecisive handling scares her. She, like the other bunnies, was nervous when I picked her up, but she, also like the other bunnies, calmed right down once she realized that she was getting a special spa treatment.

Phoenix

Phoenix didn’t really need to be groomed, but, since he’s such a special and brave bunny, we decided to check in on him anyway. He was doing just fine – doing tiny stationary binkies and hopping rambunctiously around his pen. I tried to pick him up, but he clearly was not in the mood…I think he wanted his tribute from afar, in the form of pets and back scratches. We gave him this tribute and paid homage to him to let him know that we understand that he’s the king.

My husband and I go to the shelter to groom bunnies as often as we can, and each trip is a delight. We intend to do much more grooming, so stay tuned for more days in the lives of bunny huggers!

–end–

Grooming Little Joe – Part 1

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

SaveABunny volunteer Maitreya shared this story – enjoy!

I thought I was doing them a favor. Rob and my husband Mark were looking for a Shop-Vac with which we could vacuum up the pellets in the big pen where Little Joe, the svelte and handsome black bunny who, unfortunately, had to have one hind leg removed, lived with his compatriots. I wanted to get started on my work of massaging Little Joe’s sides and muscles, which were developing unevenly because of the lack of his leg. So I hunted around Marcy’s art room and found a Shop-Vac in the little laundry room right next door. I lugged it out to the bunny area and vacuumed up the pellets and hay in Little Joe’s x-pen, and then I put the Shop-Vac to the side, stepped into the pen, and started petting bunnies. It was heaven – everywhere I put my hand, there was a bunny under it. Nothing is more enchanting than being surrounded by bunnies: their little paws on my legs; their twitchy, whiskery noses bumping into my hands and sides and thighs asking politely, as bunnies do, for pets and attention; their soothing little honking sounds that tell me they’re happy; even their little nips when they want me to move or when they have, as Little Joe did, an amusing obsession for my shoelaces.

Little Joe and his pen-mate, Scooter.

Little Joe and his pen-mate, Scooter.

Nothing, I thought, could spoil this delight. How wrong I was. Rob and Mark came back into the room, bringing the giant Shop-Vac from downstairs when Rob noticed the little one I’d brought in from the laundry room. He asked, “What’s this? Where did –?” and I told him that I’d gone to the laundry room to get it. Alarm immediately flashed across his handsome, careworn face.
“No, no, that’s wrong; that can’t – no,” he said, and he leaped across the room to the little Shop-Vac, which was innocently squatting in the corner, blissfully ignorant of its complicity in my guilt.
“What’s wrong? What…?” I stammered. Today seemed like a day for incomplete sentences.
“That’s the vacuum for the toxic materials from Marcy’s kiln,” he said intensely. He was trying to grab the venomous vacuum cleaner and get it out of the bunnies’ room as quickly as possible, but he was struggling; it was still plugged in. I, still penned in Little Joe’s area, sat back on my knees, too aghast to unplug it for him or help him. In that small area, if I had stepped out of the pen, I would be standing on Rob’s back, and at that moment, more dead weight was the last thing he needed.
He got the Shop-Vac unplugged and raced out of the room with it. I had no idea what he was doing; presumably, he was emptying out the contaminated materials. I, however, was crying with humiliation and shame. When Rob came back in, calm as ever, I couldn’t even look at him. What an idiot I was, I thought. They’ll never let me come and groom bunnies again.
But Rob was unflappable. He bent over and showed me the proper way to massage Little Joe, who had taken cover – as any smart bunny would – during the chaos. He made his way back over to me and gave me a strength-restoring bitie, as I call bunny bites, to make me focus my attention on Rob’s ministrations. Rob told me how to massage Little Joe, and, once I had the hang of it, told me that Scooter, one of Little Joe’s pen-mates, could use some Maitreya-therapy as well. And then he left me to my mêlée of emotions: chagrin, embarrassment, cramped self-esteem, and calming bunny support.
And support was the right word. Poor Little Joe had only a stump where his left hind paw had been, so it was part of my job as deputized physical therapist to support his left side, allowing him to stand upright and hop that way. I had some trouble with that; Little Joe is a fast and active bunny, and I could barely keep up with him as he hopped/scrambled his way around the pen, through the water dish, into a cardboard tube, and then finally to the safety of the litterbox. I let him be and turned my back so that he could have some privacy, and petted the other bunnies until he came back to me of his own accord. It was not long before he did, and he announced his presence by giving me a double dose of bities. He had made it clear: he was the alpha bunny, and I was there to attend to his needs, feed him bits of carrots, and amuse him with my shrieks of pain when he bestowed on me his mighty bities.

Part 2 of “Grooming Little Joe” coming soon… stay tuned!

You can sponsor special needs rabbits like Little Joe or Scooter through SaveABunny. It’s easy, and makes a big difference!